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Bob Seger, Greenville, SC, January 14, 2012

I spent this past Saturday evening at the Bi-Lo Center in Greenville, SC, taking a stroll down amnesia lane (as my friend Barry is wont to say), rocking out with Bob Seger and the Silver Bullet Band. I must admit that I had mixed feelings about going to the show, especially when I saw the ticket prices. Can you say "sticker shock"? I had originally thought that I would get good seats, down front. After all, I'm a man of wealth and taste ... Well, at least of modest means, if of little taste. It turns out that the best tickets I could get were in the "upper bowl," the nosebleed seats, and even those were $69 a pop, and that doesn't count the "facility charge" ($2), the "convenience charge" ($20.70), "order processing ($3.85), and "US Mail Delivery" ($5.00). Ouch.

The arena was packed. I had planned to make my way down to the main floor to get closer to the stage, but that was out of the question. There wasn't an empty seat in the house. Imagine the revenue generated that night. Let's conservatively estimate the seating capacity at 10,000 and the average ticket price as $80. That's $800,000 right there. Needless to say, the vast majority of the crowd was pale faced and of a certain age! Just like me.

I don't know if I'll ever go to an arena rock show again. Well, maybe if Alice Cooper or Bruce Springsteen comes around. I think I'll stick to the smaller venues. I've seen fantastic performances in small places: Maceo Parker, Abdullah Ibrahim, Taj Mahal, and Adrian Belew ... just to name a few. The sound quality is usually better, the ticket prices are more reasonable, and it's usually simply a better musical experience. But I must give credit where credit is due: Bob Seger had the best sound possible for such a venue; it was loud but not too loud, and relatively clear.

A strange thing happened to me. While I enjoyed the show while I was experiencing it, in recollection it grew on me. At two in the morning, lying in bed, "with the echoes from the amplifiers ringing in my head," I started appreciating it more and more, and in fact, my excitement prevented me from falling asleep.

Bob Seger is devoid of pretentiousness, from what I can tell. He is not touring in support of new material, just rocking out on his established catalogue of hits. People often say that this is the new that; that X is the new Y, that 60 is the new 40. The last one might be true. Seger must be a bit past 60 (I've quipped that I'd never seen so many 60 year-olds assembled in one place ... and that was just on the stage), but his voice hasn't changed. It's that same, quintessential rock 'n' roll voice, rough, gruff and tough, but never off pitch. In fact, I saw Seger live at Castle Farms in Charlevoix, MI in the early eighties, and he may be sounding better today than he was then, the Silver Bullet Band tighter than ever. Perhaps what happened then was that the show didn't live up to the intensity of the Live Bullet album. This time, my expectations were lower, but my impression, more favorable.

As Kid Rock mentioned when he inducted him into the Rock 'n' Roll Hall of Fame, Bob Seger is the consummate rock 'n' roll professional. He is completely dignified, yet still 100% rock 'n' roll. He can pull off ballads like "Main Street," "Night Moves," or "Beautiful Loser" but he can also rock out with the best of them on tunes like "Katmandu" or Tina Turner's "Nutbush City Limit." And tell me if there's a beat out there bigger than that of "Ramblin' Gamblin' Man." There is something clownish and ridiculous about the sextegenarian Mick Jagger prancing about the stage. Bob Seger, on the other hand, commands the stage with ease and good humor.

Two members of the band, the bassist and Alto Reed, the saxophonist, have been members of the Silver Bullet Band since 1971 ... that's 40 freakin' years! The rest of the crew are also great musicians. Both guitarists are Nashville cats, and you know how those Nashville cats can pick. You got the Motor City Horns, you got background singers, a keyboard player, and the drummer ... the dude from Grand Funk Railroad. The music is not intricate, but it's tight and HEAVY! Probably in part because this band has done more than 50 shows in the last year.

Here's the set list, to the best of my recollection:

The Fire Down Below
Old Time Rock 'n' Roll
Ramblin' Gamblin' Man
Going Back to Birmingham (Little Richard)
Travelin' Man / Beautiful Loser medley (Just like on Live Bullet)
We've Got Tonight
Nutbush City Limits (Tina Turner)
Her Strut (there was a 50 year-old dancing like a stripper in the aisle. The issue commented, "I have to puke.")
Real Mean Bottle (Vince Gill)
Turn the Page
Katmandu
Against the Wind
Hollywood Nights
Night Moves

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